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Late May at Nixie’s Vale is lovely. I lucked out in the fly-catcher department: phoebes swoop, dragonflies buzz around (by June) and nocturnal toads set up camp beneath my deck. It has been a few summers since I’ve spotted a bat, sadly, but my woods are a sanctuary for birds. It was sunny today, and I went to the seamstress to pick up a few items that she transformed for me: It’s like getting a whole new wardrobe of clothes that I already love. I’ve gone from a size 16 to an 8-10, down to 162lbs., with a 29 and a half inch waist, having lost forty pounds over the past year. I’m just getting back to my natural shape and feel like myself again. Hurrah! My best friend from high school said I look “high school skinny.” Well, I’m wearing the old blue jeans I got in Wyoming with my cousin, Tara, in summer 2002 when I was 26! (I’m now 38, so this feels like a magic trick.) Besides feeling fit again, I feel inspired.

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Almost every day, I walk my dog through a wetland or along the road by the pond and back, swim in the lake (it’s warming up!) and do a little housework. Today I cleaned the kitchen, made a delicious lunch, which I ate while sitting on a bed of moss in my yard, overlooking the grove in my woods. I love the woods. But my new indulgence, thanks due in part to Matt’s handy work, is my hammock. It hangs between two trees at the base of a mossy slope at the far end of the yard. It’s the quilted kind of hammock designed for two people but I fit perfectly along with a notebook, water bottle–and sometimes the dog will join me and sprawl across my legs. A lush breeze sneaks through the trees from Raymond Pond and I look up at the silhouettes of tree branches, patches of blue sky beyond. Rays of sunlight pour through and fill me with optimism, hope and appreciation. 20150802_152908I feel so blessed to live here, to call this little piece of land my home. I call it “Nixie’s Vale,” but in truth, I’m just a temporary steward of the land. This spring I planted a garden with my father and I will tend it this summer, hopefully producing some vegetables. In between swims, gardening and hammock naps, I barely have time to write. Admittedly, I keep thinking of lines of poetry; I might sketch them in my notebook, but then feel more motivated to swim-walk-hike-weed-swim-cook-walk and make iced tea.

The trees at Nixie's Vale

The trees at Nixie’s Vale

To All the Horses I’ve Loved Before

When I took riding lessons as a girl,
Mares liked my hair: they muzzled it,
Mistook it for hay, nosed the curls,
My long blonde wheat fronds
Nuzzle-lipped and pepper-minted
It was all innocent horse-play.

Jumping fences, I dreamt
Meadows and willows, shady
Glens where I was never meant
To wander; no boundary made me
Slow long enough to see how far
I’d strayed, or where I went.

When I rode rodeo horses
In Wyoming at a calf ropin’,
We galloped toward the other
End of the arena at full speed;
I learned why cowboys often
Walk bow-legged. (How I love
Bow-legged men.) One of them
Propositioned a seasonal position
On his ranch: “You may not go out
A cowgirl but you’ll come back
As one,” in a broken John-Wayne
Affectation. He served me a bowl,
‘New England clam chowder.”

Vibrating in the saddle,
Reins between my fingertips,
I communicated—a slight pull,
A nudge of my leg, the cowboy
Insisted, “Be one with the horse!”
Utilizing my natural weight, I
Tilted forward and felt seized
By the animal’s innate power.

One arm raised (to practice)
We darted and dove, a game
He demonstrated; I relaxed,
Centered in my hips; the horse,
Mid-conversation, urinated
On the spot—this quarter horse,
A seasoned athlete, made me…
Wait. A roper asked, “What did
You do to that horse?” with coarse
Laughter. Tamed manes, the horse’s
And mine, flagged in synchronicity.

For Those Wyoming Boys 

Poet’s note: This is part of a 30/30 Poetry Challenge in support of the nonprofit Tupelo Press. If you would like to support me in this fundraiser, please donate here and mention my name in comments or in the “in honor of” field that comes up with PayPal. Thank you, friends. -Leah Stetson

Leah

Poet. Artist. Ecoheroine. Human ecologist. Spiritual mermaid and Mystic. I write about literary ecology, wetlands, water, Romantic ecology, and quirky adventures with my dog.

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